Indonesian contemporary art

Contemporary art from Indonesia: BIRDPRAYERS, UBUD, ARYA PANDJALU AND SARA NUYTEMANS, 2008-2011

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Until recently, western interest in the Indonesian contemporary art scene was relatively scant, overshadowed by focus on formerly emerging giants such as China, India and Korea.

If part of that focus was purely speculative, it's hardly surprising that attention is now shifting to Indonesia, whose artists are increasingly coveted by homegrown and regional collectors and fetching ever-rising prices in both primary and secondary markets.

Heri Dono: Flying Angels. Contemporary art from Indonesia

It's also true, however, that interest has been stimulated by a recent spate of shows in which the diversity, vivacity and ambition of art from the world's most populous Muslim nation has been amply demonstrated.

It's important to remember that, for Indonesians, freedom of artistic expression is relatively recent, the result of fledgling democratization in 1998 after decades of repression by General Suharto's military regime.

Accordingly, the theme of socio-political transformation underpins many practices, together with an accent on the cultural ramifications of globalisation.

If, at times, much of the resulting work can seem overly familiar - closely echoing strategies used to iterate similar concerns in other emerging regional art scenes - the significance of such statements lies not so much in originality, but as testament to the rapid evolution of Indonesian art and its assimilative spirit.

Yet it's also true that, notwithstanding the newer influences shaping its production, contemporary art from Indonesia retains a surprisingly strong sense of local identity, consistently referencing a wealth of established visual and cultural tradition.


Eddie Hara

Contemporary art from Indonesia: Eddie Hara

Eddie Hara (born 1957), is one of the best-known internationally of all Indonesian artists - a fact no doubt influenced by his residence in Switzerland since the late 1990s.

His energetic, highly recognisable work fuses a western vocabulary of urban and outsider art with a variety of indigenous references, including the colourful patterning of traditional batik work and grotesque caricature of Indonesian puppet figures.

Hara's work has been highly influential on a new generation of Indonesian artists including Eko Nugroho and Wedhar Riyadi (Nughoro's work is featured below).

Eddie Hara
Eddie Hara

Ay Tjoe Christine

Ay Tjoe Christine: Indonesian contemporary artists

Since 2002, Ay Tjoe Christine has increasingly secured herself a position as one of the most prominent - and sought after - Indonesian artists.

In a richly layered body of work that includes print-making, painting, sculpture and photography, the artist transmutes the specifics of a Christian faith - to which many works directly refer - into a more general view of the spiritual within contemporary society.

As Christine has stated, "...I'm very concerned about the universal human experience in this age of globalization and fast-paced living, and I try to explore these conceptual dialogues in my artwork. I want my art to make the viewer feel comfort, peace and serenity. They are like modern-day parables, almost."

Ay Tjoe Christine
Ay Tjoe Christine
Ay Tjoe Christine

Jompet Kuswidananto

Jompet Kuswidananto

Jompet Kuswidananto's phalanges of bodyless figures refer to what he considers the elusive nature of Indonesian identity, "imagining ... the body as always developing or changing, and this need to constantly develop new realities as a strategy for negotiating the competing tensions that affect Indonesia."

Often combined with multimedia components such as video, sound and mechanical elements, Kuswidananto's installations provide an unusually specific interrogation of his country's political and social past, as well as its histories in the making.

Jompet Kuswidananto
Jompet Kuswidananto

Yogyakarta and Bandung: cultural powerhouses

Yogyakarta, capital of the eponymous Yogyakarta Special Region on the island of Java, is renowned for its centuries-old role as a centre of traditional Javanese craft and culture, including batik, dance, silver-smithing, music, poetry and wayang puppet shows.

Today, the city houses Indonesia's largest number of higher education institutions and one of the country's most ethnically diverse populations; characteristics which also inform its burgeoning staus as the preeminent centre of Indonesian contemporary art.

Bandung, the capital of Indonesia's West Java province, is likewise a major cultural and educational hub, and in recent years has gained increasing significance as a second Indonesian fine art hotspot.


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